Zeng Zi (505-432 B.C.) was from Nan Wu in what is now China’s Shandong Province. When he was 16 years old, he was accepted as a student of Confucius. He eventually became one of the most important disciples of Confucius.
Zeng Zi advocated that family prosperity requires filial duty, self-cultivation relies on sincerity, and one should teach by personal example, not just by verbal instruction.
“Zeng Zi Butchered a Pig” is a story that describes how Zeng Zi educated his son about honesty by keeping a promise.
One day Zeng Zi’s wife was going to the market. Her son was crying while following her. She was annoyed and wanted her son to go back home, so she said:
“You go back – I will slaughter a pig for you to eat.”
Zeng Zi’s wife came back from the market and Zeng Zi led the pig into the yard for slaughter. He was about to kill it when his wife stopped him and said:
“I just said it to calm the child; don’t take it so seriously.”
Zeng Zi said disapprovingly:
“It’s no joke for a parent to make a promise to their child. Children have no power of discrimination, and they will learn from their parents. They will follow the instruction of their parents. If you deceive him, then you will teach the child to deceive. If the mother deceives a child, the child will no longer believe his mother.”
Translated by Kitty Zhong.